How immunisation is vital to win the war against disease

Each year, World Immunisation Week is also the week of ANZAC Day, when we acknowledge the achievements and sacrifices of our military personnel. In 2018, two 100th anniversaries remind us that infectious diseases have taken, and still take, a greater toll than the loss of life in warfare:

  • It has been 100 years since the end of World War 1, which ended in November 1918, and claimed an estimated 20 million military and civilian lives.
  • It has also been 100 years since the outbreak of the deadliest influenza pandemic in history – the “Spanish flu” which claimed between 20 million and 100 million lives worldwide in 1918 and 1919.

It is also a time to remember the millions of preventable deaths that occur today due to poor health and nutrition, and to promote action to prevent these deaths.

Immunisation is one of the most successful and cost-effective health interventions. Expanding access to immunisation is crucial to achieving the Sustainable Development Goal of healthy lives for all people at all ages. Currently, immunisation prevents the deaths of an estimated two to three million people per year, but three million people, including 1.5 million children up to the age of five, still die from vaccine-preventable diseases each year.

More than 19 million children in the world are either un-vaccinated or under-vaccinated, putting them at serious risk of potentially deadly diseases. Of these children, at least one in ten do not have any access to the health system.

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, has helped immunise 700 million people and save ten million lives since it was founded in 2001. Gavi has helped bring new vaccines, including the new Ebola vaccine, to people living in low income countries.

Australia maintained its support to Gavi at $250 million over five years during the last Gavi replenishment in January 2015. That was part of funding of $US 7.5 billion over five years which enables Gavi to save the lives of one to two million children per year through immunisation programs. Continuing to invest in Gavi helps safeguard the health of children and prevent epidemics around the globe.

To read the full article by Mark Rice go to the DevPolicy Blog